Our staff members are qualified and dedicated professionals and belong to a variety of professional organizations, such as the Chattanooga Area Association for the Education of Young Children (CAAEYC), the Southern Early Childhood Association (SECA), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA). Staff members participate in a continuous program of in-service training and professional study to keep abreast of the latest happenings in the field of early childhood. Teachers are required to attain a minimum of 18 clock hours of training each year. Daily, weekly, and monthly planning meetings frame our classroom work with the children.

Ms. Jenette


Ms. Jenette Dean is entering her fourth year as HPUMP Director. She holds a B.A. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland and teaching certification from Middle Tennessee State University. She also recently earned a Master's Certificate in Early Childhood Emergent Curriculum from East Tennessee State University. Jenette has over 33 years of experience in early childhood education. She worked as a teacher's aide at the Kansas School for the Deaf, as a classroom teacher for military families in Aschaffenburg Germany, and in the Preschool for the United States Military Academy at West Point. She has many years of experience with children of all ages in preschools and elementary schools as a military spouse. Most recently, she was the Early Childhood Education Manager with the Creative Discovery Museum, where she developed the current PlayGym Program. She has served on the board for Chattanooga Area Association of Education of Young Children, (CAAEYC) and Hamilton County Department of Education Pre-K Advisory Board. She served a year on the Board for the YMCA and also on the Chattanooga Gang Task Force Early Literacy Board. While at the Creative Discovery Museum, She organized and conducted numerous early childhood workshops for educators throughout the area. Jenette is the recipient of the 2015 Hilda Avant Service to Young Children Award.

Jenette has three grown children - daughter Kaitlyn who just finished law school at U.T. College of Law, and sons, William and Patrick who just graduated from  the University of Chattanooga. Jenette's husband Paul, is a retired United States Army officer who is also an educator for Hamilton County Schools and an adjunct professor at Chattanooga State Community College.

Ms. Jenette is thrilled to be part of the HPUMP family!!

MS. Allison

Ms. Allison LaPorta returns to the HPUMP team for her second year as our Office Manager. Last year Allison worked on Mondays in our Office and volunteered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Allison has been in the HPUMP family for many years! Believe it or not, she attended HPUMP when she was a little girl! Fast forward several years later and her son, Wyatt- almost 6 years old, came to us as a Starshine Friend and left as a Rainbow Kid and her daughter, Olivia- 3.5  came as a Starshine Friend and is now a Moonbeam. Allison's Husband, Nick, is also a familiar face around the school as he helps on the Lumberjack Team! While Wyatt and Olivia were both attending school last year, she was often found volunteering in the office or supporting the staff as needed. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Human Health Performance from UTC and worked in sales and marketing in NC as well as administration work for Catawba Nuclear Station in SC prior to becoming a stay at home mom in 2012. Her husband Nick works for Cigna. In their spare time, the family loves exploring the outdoors with their two dogs, taking family trips, and eating dessert together. 

Ms. Marcia

Ms. Marcia

Ms. Marcia Harris, after being one of our substitutes for the last 3 years, will be joining us as a co-teacher in the Twinklers class. She has previously worked as the director of Children's Ministries at Hixson United Methodist Church as well as their CDC Program. She will continue to hold her position as the Site Director of Aftercare at St. Jude Catholic School where she has been for 15 years. She and her Husband, Cornelius, are members of HUMC where they facilitate a Sunday School class of 25-45 year olds that include her son Brandon and his wife Stephanie. She was blessed to keep their child Lena, now 7, and be Nana to Milah and Kylie from birth until all 3 went off to school. Her daughter, Brittany, lives and works in Knoxville as a case-worker. When she is not caring for children, she spends most of her free time sewing and doing alterations. 

Ms. Freya

MS. Freya

Ms. Freya Hearn is excited to be joining the HPUMP team this year in the Twinklers class! Freya studied psychology at Bryan College and has over 10 years of experience working with young children in various settings, including nannying for several years and teaching a financial literacy program to 4th-6th graders at Junior Achievement. She is also a trained birth doula and is currently working towards her full certification. Freya has two children: Winston, age 5 will be attending Wauhatchie Forrest Kindergarten this year and Aurora, age three will be in the Moonbeams classroom! She spent the last several years at home with her children, during which time she discovered and became enamored with the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. She hopes to pursue a degree in early childhood education. Freya enjoys creating multi media art, reading everything in sight, practicing yoga, and baking goodies. She lives in the Northshore area with her family and their three cats. 

Ms. Kelly


Ms. Kelly DeJong returns to our team for her fifth year as co-teacher of the Starshine Friends class. Kelly has a Masters of Rehabilitation Counseling degree from the University of South Carolina.  She has worked in homes and classrooms providing support and training to families and teachers of children with autism for over 10 years.  Her previous work experience was as a classroom coach at Siskin Children's Institute and a consultant providing home support for families and professionals of young children receiving early intervention services.  Kelly has two children, Jakob, 11, and Rylie, 10, who attend Westview Elementary. Her husband, Ray, is an engineer at Komatsu.

Ms. Abby Hird

Ms. Abby

Ms. Abby Hird, will be new to HPUMP this fall! We are thrilled that she will be co-teacher in the Starshine Friends classroom. She graduated in May from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies. Her concentrations were in Early Childhood Professions and Leadership and Entrepreneurial Professions. She is a certified early childhood teacher and has been in the field, studying and gaining experience, for three years. Abby fell in love with early childhood education on a trip to Uganda in 2016 and soon after discovered the Reggio Emilia principles that have shaped her passion for the field. 
Abby is moving to Chattanooga in July, and getting married in October. Abby and her fiancè have been dating long distance from Colorado to Tennessee so she is very excited to start this new chapter. She loves painting, being outdoors, reading, cooking, and finding new ways to pursue her own creativity—a constant and healthy challenge inspired by working with children."

Ms. Anna

Ms. Anna

Ms. Anna Kirk returns to our team for her fifth year, becoming a co -teacher in the Moonbeams class. Anna just received her associates degree in Early Childhood Education at Chattanooga State. We are so proud of her! Prior to coming to Highland Plaza Preschool, Anna taught 3 year olds at Burks United Methodist Child Development Center and was the 2–4 year old teacher for the Parents  Morning Out program for 4 years. Additionally Anna served at the Parents Day Out program for Northside Learning Center. She enjoys teaching VBS and volunteers her time on Wednesdays and some Sundays teaching in the children's department for Red Bank Cumberland Presbyterian Church where she is a member.  Anna discovered her passion for children while volunteering her time with kids as a teenager at the church her father pastored. She is a room mom at Allen Elementary and helps with the teacher needs. Anna’s two daughters are Sarah Grace, age 11, and a 5th-grader, and Katie Beth age 7, a 2nd-grader. Anna's husband Brandon is a meat market manager. In her spare time Anna likes to read, hike and spend time with family and friends. 

Mr. J.

MR. J.

Mr. J. Maddox returns to our teaching team for his tenth year! He spent nine wonderful years in our Rainbow Kids classroom teaching pre-kindergarten children and we are thrilled to announce that he will be moving to our Moonbeams  classroom to impact the younger children. He will be co-teacher with Ms. Anna. These two make a great team! J. is his first name- just the letter J followed by a dot. It is on his birth certificate that way. J. holds a BA degree in art studio from Tulane University, New Orleans, LA; his emphasis was in printmaking. Additionally, J. is a docent at the Tennessee Aquarium and volunteers at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. J.’s son, Nick, is in 10th grade at Chattanooga Christian School and his daughter, Lainey, is in 8th grade at GPS.  J. also has a rescue dog, a black lab mix puppy named Downton.

Ms. Kim


Ms. Kim Jackson joins us in the 2018-2019 school year as a co-teacher in the Sunshine Gang class. She is a classically-trained actor and storyteller with a heart for teaching. Kim is a member of SAG-AFTRA and has spent most of her professional life working in theatre and film and finding ways to create opportunities for fellow Creatives. Before moving to Chattanooga over a decade ago, Kim lived and worked in Los Angeles. Prior to joining our team, she has served as Special Events Director at Rock City and as Interim Executive Director at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre while continuing to work as a freelance performer. Although Desdemona, Electra and Juliet remain an integral part of her soul, her greatest role to date is Mommy to HPUMP alumni, Mac and Millie. Kim’s husband, Will, is the Senior Manager of Innovation for See Rock City, Inc.

Ms. Lyndsay Slaten

MS. Lyndsay

Ms. Lyndsay Slaten,  is thrilled and honored to be joining the HPUMP staff this year in the Sunshine Gang class with Ms. Kim. She received her Bachelors Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Samford University. She has five years experience working in early childhood education, but has taken a six year break to be a stay at home mom. The past 3 1/2 years, she has worked part time with Amani ya Juu, a Kenya-based ministry that exports their goods to Chattanooga. For the last two years, she has homeschooled her two children, Shepard and Sally Ann. They both attended HPUMP and talk frequently about how much they miss it. They are excited to attend Chattanooga Christian School in the fall. Her husband, Chris, teaches high school English at CCS and is a singer/songwriter. During the summers, they get to enjoy their favorite family activity of traveling around the country for Chris to play house concerts.  The Slatens have attended Northshore Fellowship for 13 years and share their home with five fish and a fabulous tabby cat named Berdie


Ms. Jenna


Ms. Jenna Leckenby is in her fifth year here at HPUMP and she was co-teacher in the Sunshine Gang class for four years. We are ecstatic about her move to our Rainbow Kids classroom this coming Fall in 2018-2019. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology and an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Before joining HPUMP, Jenna worked as a nanny during college and spent ten years as a stay-at-home mom to her daughters, Catie, 13, and Julia, 9, who both attend St. Jude School, where her husband, Keith, works as a middle-school English teacher. Jenna's hobbies include reading and rock climbing. She and her family attend St Jude Catholic Church. 

Ms. Keri

Ms. Keri

Keri Elb is in her fourth year here at HPUMP! She was co-teacher in the Sunshine Gang classroom and will be joining Rainbow Kids next year with Ms. Jenna. These two are an incredible team for your children!  Born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, she’s been a Tennessean for nearly two decades now. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from The University of the South, Sewanee and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Vanderbilt. For the past eleven years, she has been a teacher of various grades at Jasper Elementary School in Jasper, Tennessee. During her tenure at Jasper, she was involved with Destination Imagination and Odyssey of the Mind.  More recently, she has taken time off to be a stay-at-home mom to her two little boys, Sam, who is a precocious 5 ½ year old, and Joe, who is a very happy 3 year old.


Away from school, Ms. Keri is a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal, where she is active in the Senior Choir, the Adult Handbell Choir, and as a lector. She enjoys travelling and has visited many places around the country and the world, including Yellowstone National Park, New York City, London, and even Antarctica!

Ms Stephanie


Ms. Stephanie Bailey returns for her third year as Co-Atelierista at HPUMPA graduate of Taylor University with a B.S. in Art Education, she has taught Art from kindergarten to high school. She also has experience in both special education and in outdoor education.

Stephanie’s five year old daughter, Anya, attended HPUMP last year and was part of the Sunshine Gang.  During this time Stephanie helped out in the Atelier and substituted in all of the classrooms. She looks forward to sharing her love of art with the HPUMP community, including drawing, painting, mixed media and ceramics. When she isn’t in the classroom, Stephanie enjoys going on outdoor adventures, traveling, and exploring the world with her daughter Anya and husband Drew, professor of Outdoor Education and Recreation Management at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.  

Ms. Christine

Ms. Christine 

Ms. Christine Dayton is excited to join HPUMP as Co-Atelierista. She holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Clemson University and has taught Preschool-3rd grade in both public and independent schools. For the past 5 years, Christine has been teaching in early childhood classrooms and the majority of that time in a Reggio inspired program. Through her education and experience of Reggio, she has been especially inspired and interested in creating art with children. Christine has been offering art experiences in her classroom as well as in private art classes and is thrilled to share this passion with the community at HPUMP.
Christine moved to Chattanooga from Florida this summer with her husband Scott, an Academic Advisor for Student Athletes at UTC. They are excited to explore the city and be closer to family in Atlanta. Christine enjoys cooking, traveling, vacationing at the beach, and working on their new home!

Ms. Ruth


This year marks Ms. Ruth Holladay's third year as HPUMP's Music Together Specialist.

She holds a B.S. in Early Childhood/Elementary Education and has a Master's degree in Diagnostic and Prescriptive Education. She's a certified teacher who has taught various ages and grades over the years but has mostly taught part time to be a stay at home mom.

Ruth's husband is a full time Army National Guard officer. They have two adult sons: William, 23, is an artist and recent Media Technology/ Graphic Design graduate from Chattanooga State and Andrew, 21, is a Business Management major/ Sports Management minor Junior at Belmont University.

Ruth enjoys eating delicious food, listening to live music, attending sporting events, and hopes to continue traveling and having more adventures this year. She also finds great joy in going for walks with her McKamey rescue dog, Pepper.

Ruth has been a member of the HPUMP staff in some capacity for twelve years now and is delighted to continue to be
to be a part of the HPUMP family. The children love her!

Ms. Katie


Ms Katie McKenna returns to the HPUMP team for her fourth year as our Admissions Coordinator and she also plays an important role on our Financial side.  Katie has been in the HPUMP family for 7 years; while her sons Owen (10) and Brecken (7) were both attending, she was often found volunteering in the office or working on marketing support for StudioPendous.  She earned her Bachelors in Marketing and Masters degree in Business Administration at UTC and worked in sales and marketing in several different industries prior to becoming a stay at home mom. Her husband Kevin is a Citrix engineer with BlueCross BlueShield.  In their spare time, the family loves exploring new places or tinkering with new projects.  Their latest project is the augmented reality sand table you’ll find in the Gathering Room. Katie also welcomed another son, Bennett, who just turned one.